- Starting middle linebacker, junior Phillip Dillard: Out, with an ankle injury and the time for his return is undetermined
- Junior wide receiver Menelik Holt: Out with a knee injury, and the time for his return is also undetermined.
- Starting running back, senior Marlon Lucky: Is back for the second day in a row following an injury to his foot, and participated in most of the practice today.
Not necessarily the situation you want to be in when you are getting ready to face perhaps the toughest team you might face all year.
As it looks like Lucky should be ready to go for the game, the situation at middle linebacker becomes a bit more problematic as the Huskers have bodies, but not a ton of experience.
The most logicl replacement at that spot at this point is senior Cody Glenn, who will have to move over from the strongside linebacker position to fill in for Dillard. One of the main reasons for this move is that with Oklahoma running a lot more spread this year, Glenn is the obvous choice if he is going to be the only backer on the field. If it's not Glenn, senior Tyler Wortman obviously gives Nebraska good game experience at the position, albeit with a little less side-to-side speed than Glenn.
If Nebraska does show a full three-backer set, though, Glenn would probably still move to the middle, Wortman would stay at the WILL-spot and freshman Matt Holt would move to the SAM position where Glenn normally plays. Holt was the sole starting linebacker for the Huskers against Texas Tech as both Dillard and Glenn were nursing injuries, and the Husker defense opened up the game defensively, in the dime package.
Perhaps in light of Holt's absence and with the continuing issues of sophomore wide receiver Curenksi Gilleylen in simply not being able to consistently catch the ball, sophomore running back Marcus Mendoza is now serving double-duty, both at wide receiver and his regular position of running back.,
“Obviously, he can't handle the whole offense, but he'll be ready to spot some guys, if need be,” Pelini said of Mendoza. “When you are out there at the wide receiver position, you are going to be in space a little bit and we just thought he was a guy who could add some speed to what we were doing. He can't the whole offense right now, but to his credit he's come a long way in a short amount of time.”
Mendoza does have at least a small amount of experience in this role, the sophomore catching a touchdown from senior quarterback Joe Ganz during the Spring Game. That was coming out of the backfield, however, but should Mendoza actually see time at this position come Saturday, his size and explosiveness can offer Nebraska a legitimate weapon, IF he can be consistent catching the ball.
Part of these types of position moves are to address injury concerns, of course, but you could also say the Huskers are looking for an edge. Actually, calling it a way to try and get to even might be better, considering the team they will be facing this Saturday.
Despite all the unorthodox teams Nebraska has faced this year, from what they did on either side of the ball, and taking into account the quality of some of the opponents, Nebraska having already faced two top 10 teams, for the Husker Head Coach, Oklahoma takes all those challenges they have been faced with throughout the entire year and amplifies it across the board. “They are balanced, well coached. I think they have talent across the board on offense. Defensively they play hard, they play physical, they're well coached – they are a good football team,” Pelini said. “There's a reason why they are ranked number four. It's obvious. We've got to be hitting on all cylinders to give ourselves a chance.”
It's a chance the oddsmakers don't give Nebraska much of, the Sooners going into this contest expected to win by at least three touchdowns on Saturday evening. Part of that probably stems not just from OU's record and ranking, but the fact that the game, televised on ESPN Saturday night, is taking place in Norman, a place the Sooners haven't lost for 20-plus games.
“The more I look at OU, the more impressed I am. We have a tremendous test ahead of us.”
Check out the following audio for the full post practice with Husker Head Coach Bo Pelini
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